Ever the auteur, Soderbergh remains delightfully unpredictable with this latest feature. Side Effects initially presents itself as an indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, wearing its heavy-handed message on its sleeve, but promptly converts into a psychological suspense thriller. Soderbergh stares you directly in the eyes while he rips the rug from beneath your feet, sending you spiraling toward a conclusion that is equally unexpected and pleasing. Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Bourne Ultimatum) channel Hitchcock, creating an in-depth narrative that remains unpredictable until its final scene.
Soderbergh is known for generating a positive film environment for his cast, and maximizing the actors' potential in his films. Although the cast for Side Effects is comprised of actors who have previously provided impressive performances, each actor presents a character that rivals any prior roles. Rooney Mara plays the young woman at the epicenter of the conflict. Mara is extremely engrossing, creating an aura of discontent and depression within her situation. She acts as the film's catalyst, holding all the characters together while prompting them toward their conclusions. Attractive, graceful, and erratic, Mara is the wounded girl who isn't all that she seems.
While the film's driving force is Mara, Jude Law is its principle focus. As Mara's overwhelmed psychiatrist, Law provides his most empathetic role to date. Law establishes a flawed character who struggles with the consequences forced upon him, and transforms into a protagonist worthy of our admiration. Law and Mara provide such intriguing characterizations, Soderbergh seems to have difficulty deciding which to devote more time to. The scenes they share are the most arresting in this film.
There are few things more satisfying than a film which receives little attention, but creates an unexpectedly entertaining experience. Though Soderbergh has billed Side Effects as his swan song, he confirms that he is a cinematic mastermind in a film that would be an impressive conclusion to an eccentric career. Indulge in this unconventional thriller; you won't mind the side effects.